“For anyone who wants to join MSD, I would say please, please, please join us! Don’t worry about having a computer science background because they will teach you all the foundational knowledge you need. Just follow your passion to be a computer programmer. The whole education is set up to help you learn, and the block system is great because you take one course at a time, which helps you focus and gain deeper knowledge than with the traditional system. Here at MIU, everything is so nice and peaceful.” ~ Gemechu Tiko
Learn more about Gemechu and his journey from Ethiopia to MIU’s Masters in Software Development program.
Interview by Christine Albers (CA)
CA: How did you learn about MSD?
Gemechu: I have a close family member who graduated from ComPro (MIU’s MS in Computer Science program) in 2020. When I told her I wanted to learn computer science and pursue my dream to become a programmer, she recommended MSD, which is similar to ComPro but doesn’t require a computer science background. So that’s how I heard about MIU.
CA: What was it like when you first arrived on campus?
Gemechu: I loved it here right away. Everyone was so friendly and helpful with finding my dorm and my room. On my first day, I met 5 students and within 5 or 10 minutes we became friends and have remained best friends to this day. I also love the healthy food and peaceful environment.
CA: What was your educational background?
Gemechu: My least favorite subject in high school was math. How you get your education changes the way you understand things, and my secondary school math teacher, Mr. Sentayehu, was the motivation for my new journey in mathematics. Since studying with him, math has become my favorite subject. My love of solving math and physics problems helped me graduate with a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Mekelle University.
CA: Did you work as a mechanical engineer after college?
Gemechu: I was working, but not in my field of mechanical engineering. There are very few jobs back home, so I came to the USA to spend time with my father and look for better job opportunities. I took a computer science course in C++ on my own and really liked coding, so when I learned about MSD at MIU, I quickly applied to become a student.
CA: How are your professors?
Gemechu: Oh, they are so nice. One of them was you. We asked you so many questions and you answered without any hesitation.
Every instructor answers every question, even if we ask beyond the course, and even at night time if we try to communicate, they will answer our questions. They are so helpful.
So far, we had Professor Muhyieddin, Professor Renuka, Professor Sanad, and Professor Cathy Gorini and I liked all of them. Every instructor is great. Each has their own way of teaching a good lesson to us and they encourage us to ask questions. They never get tired of us asking the same question again and again and we ask a lot of questions.
CA: What are your plans when you graduate?
Gemechu: I have a wish to be a computer science expert so I will pursue my dream of being a software developer. My two brothers and one of my sisters moved to Minnesota and live with my father, so if it’s possible, I’d like to live near my family, but I’m willing to go anywhere in the U.S.
CA: What would you say to a student who is applying for MSD?
Gemechu: I would say please, please, please join the MSD program. Don’t worry about having a computer science background because they will teach you all the foundational knowledge you need. Just follow your passion to be a computer programmer. The whole education is set up to help you learn and the block system is great because you take one course at a time, which helps you focus and gain deeper knowledge than with the traditional system.
CA: Do you have any advice that will help students succeed in the MSD program?
Gemechu: It’s easy to make friends here because everyone is so friendly and having friends helps a lot, so don’t be a loner. We share knowledge and information, work in teams and study groups, and work together on our assignments, so we really help each other. Even when you graduate and live outside of this environment and work as a software developer, you will always need to have good friends and family.
Here at MIU, everything is so nice and peaceful. Please come and join us.
CA: Tell us what it was like when you were growing up in Ethiopia.
Gemechu: My mother named me “Gemechu,” which means “happy.” Thanks to my name I always feel happy. Even in rough times, I keep a smile on my face and that smile and happiness keep me moving forward. I grew up in Addis Ababa with my mother, two brothers, and 3 sisters. When I was young my father moved to Minnesota where he worked in the Aerospace industry. We talked on the phone but we didn’t see each other for 20 years. I graduated from Mekelle University in 2019, and we reunited when he invited me to Minnesota.
CA: What was your experience when you came to the United States?
Gemechu: When I saw snow for the first time, I was amazed. In Africa we never saw snow, so the cold weather was a shock at first. I arrived in February, and it was a new country, a new continent, and so cold, but my father helped me get through it. I adapted and now I actually enjoy the cold weather and snow as much as the sunny warm days.
I lived with my father and stepmother in Minnesota for two and half years while working for Amazon as a package delivery driver, but it wasn’t my life goal. I worked hard and adjusted to life in the USA. Then I joined the Master’s in Software Development program (MSD) in February 2022 with the goal of becoming the best possible software developer.
CA: How’s your Transcendental Meditation practice? Are you feeling any benefits?
Gemechu: Transcendental Meditation was a new thing for me. I tried to meditate but at first, I felt distracted. Sometimes I fell asleep but my teacher explained that it’s okay to fall asleep.
After meditating, I feel more balanced and so peaceful. It helps me calm down and it’s not as difficult to study after practicing TM. I can absorb the knowledge and concentrate on the lectures in class and homework at night.
CA: I notice that some students are concerned that meditation might be a conflict with their religion. How do you feel about that?
Gemechu: At first, I worried that it might be a conflict, but now I don’t worry at all. My professors answered my questions and explained that it’s not about religion, it’s about being in a deeper state of mind. They convinced me that TM does not have a relationship with any religion, so now I meditate twice a day without any worries.